Credit card companies. Over the past couple of years I have developed a marked aversion to credit card companies. It began when American Express revoked my card for being late with a small payment, and minor irritation at the financial behemoth's intransigence over a infraction involving late payment of about 10,000 yen (my simply having failed to top up the bank account associated with the card) was cemented instantly into resentment by the brusque, b#tchy manner of the AmEx employee who took a personal, perverse delight in putting naughty me in my place.
I then started using my Visa card issued by MUFG. Although I have never been late with a payment, a couple of months ago a payment of about 50,000 yen was inexplicably refused. I called Visa and the payment was immediately given the OK, but I was asked to "please call us in future when aboout to make a large purchase." I am not someone who plans his purchasing, so ringing up a credit company cap in hand sometime between 9am and 5pm in anticipation of making a purchase is not me at all.
So I started using my Saison MasterCard. I bought a watch with it from an online store based in Osaka. For some reason the payment didn't go through, so as soon as I learned this I went straight to the bank and transferred the money to the watch seller's bank account. I then called up MasterCard and asked what the problem was. They said my credit limit was too low. They obligingly raised it there and then. I told them that the original refused payment should now be cancelled, and left it at that. I then rang the watch seller who insisted that the credit card payment had gone through! I found out later that the seller had contacted Saison MasterCard and got them to OK the payment after I had told Saison to cancel it! And who had Saison MasterCard listened to? Not me, whose money they were eventually going to be taking, but the conniving shop owner who now had twice the amount from me, by bank transfer and by credit card payment. I rang up Saison MasterCard again. This time, the person I got was very nice, but totally inept. I was treated like a child who had somehow gotten it all wrong, whereas in actual fact, at that time, I was doubly out of pocket for goods I had not yet even received.
My last substantial purchase was a couple of days ago for tickets to a ballet, Sylvia, happening at the New National Theatre, Tokyo, at the end of this month. Ticket Pia is Japan's largest ticketing agency, and when I got to the online payment page, the alternative to paying by credit card immediately caught my eye. It was a system called Chokomu eMoney, run by Japan's biggest telephone service provider, NTT. It involved the simple setting up online of an account, then taking the membership number I was issued to a 7-11 convenience store to deposit some funds to create a balance. After darting out for a needed break to the nearby 7-11 and making a deposit using the all-purpose payment machine, I then went back online and used my new Chokumu eMoney to pay for the tickets. Just yesterday I dropped into a 7-11 to get the tickets issued.
Credit cards are all about convenience, I know, and I have by no means stopped using them. But my Chokomu eMoney escapade felt good, it felt primitive in the best sense of the word: primary and pristine, almost as if I was bartering for my tickets with goods, wearing homespun - and, best of all, free of the arrogance, ineptitude and 10th-of-the-month blues that come with credit card companies.
Guide Books on Tokyo & Japan